Ada’s Place in Fair Haven supports those seeking medical care in Indy

As soon as she could, in the first weeks of her pregnancy, Zelpha Allen decided to undergo genetic testing.

At 41, she was already experiencing serious complications with her pregnancy and she wanted to make sure the baby was healthy. But tests revealed the baby had high markers for Down syndrome, and subsequent scans revealed a heart defect that may require immediate surgery.

Allen, who lives in Argos, a small community in Marshall County about two hours north of Indianapolis, was told she would have to give birth near a high-level neonatal intensive care unit.

While worrying about the circumstances of their daughter’s birth — when she might arrive, the possibility of a stillbirth, whether she was born alive, whether she would need immediate surgery — Allen’s family was now faced with a new challenge: how were they going to afford an apartment or hotel? Should Allen sleep in his car outside the hospital?

From left, Zelpha Allen, son Logan Allen and mother Melody Skees on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2021, inside Fair Haven at Ada's Place in Indianapolis.  The faith-based non-profit organization provides temporary housing for those traveling for medical treatment.  Zelpha Allen received help from Fair Haven, which provided her with a temporary apartment during her high-risk pregnancy and aftercare for her daughter Scarlett Allen.

A social worker connected them with Fair Haven, an organization providing housing and support to patients and their families who traveled to Indianapolis for medical care — completely free of charge. At 35 weeks, Allen got the call. An apartment was available, and she could have space near Indianapolis hospitals where she could safely await the arrival of her baby girl.

The offer, Allen said, sounded too good to be true. But it’s true, and it brought them some relief in the storm. Scarlett was born on August 31, about three weeks after Allen arrived in Indianapolis. At less than a month old, she has already had two surgeries and will have at least one more when she is 8 months old.

“Fair Haven was just that little ray of sunshine,” she said, “whenever it felt like everything was falling apart.”

Ada’s Place, Fair Haven’s first physical location, celebrated its grand opening on Friday and will serve approximately 1,500 additional families each year, offering on-site accommodation and day services.

It’s a project that’s been years in the making for Amanda Milner, who founded Fair Haven in 2007, six years after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a single mother of two toddlers. His mind raced: who would take care of the children? Who would help her get to her appointments and treatment? If she couldn’t work, who would pay the bills?

Her support network of friends and family intensified, helping her care for her children and get to the doctor. When she lost her home, her father used his retirement savings to help her find a new home. When she returned to work at IU Health Simon Cancer Center, she was regularly interacting with patients who were receiving potentially life-saving treatments and saw that not all of them had access to the same level of support as her.

Amanda Milner, cancer survivor and founder of Fair Haven Foundation Inc., Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2021, inside Fair Haven at Ada's Place in Indianapolis.  The faith-based non-profit organization provides temporary housing for those traveling for medical treatment.

“I just saw God come for me in so many ways,” she said, and she wanted to reciprocate that kindness. Fair Haven welcomed its first guest in 2008.

“When you’re talking with people who are going through a really, really tough time and your heart’s out and you want to help them,” Milner told IndyStar, “it’s such a joy to have something really practical to to be able to give to people.”

The $2.8 million facility features 12 guest suites

Previously, Fair Haven operated 10 fully furnished apartments in the city, connecting 125 families to a home each year as they navigated the chaos of treatment. Ada’s Place, named for the father of the man who donated the new building to Fair Haven, offers 12 suites, laundry facilities, a small chapel, and a communal kitchen.

The $2.8 million project, located on West 16th Street, a short drive from University and Methodist hospitals, will allow Fair Haven to significantly expand its reach. Night services are expected to serve an additional 500 families per year, Milner said, and day services — which will allow family members referred to Fair Haven to do laundry, showering and decompression — will serve an additional 1,000 families per year. year, she estimated.

While the organization’s values ​​are rooted in the teachings of Christianity, Fair Haven serves everyone, Milner said. She hopes guests feel the love of Christ, whether it’s something as small as being assigned a room in which the bedspread happens to be their favorite color or something as significant as a discovery or reconnection with their own faith. There are more than 125 passages of scripture written on the framework of the walls, she said. If each of the rooms is numbered, they also bear the name of: Joy. Faith. Promise. Beloved.

The Floor Plan Great Room opened Tuesday, September 22, 2021, inside Fair Haven at Ada's Place in Indianapolis.  The faith-based non-profit organization provides temporary housing for those traveling for medical treatment.

Each suite, many of which have two beds, includes a private bathroom and a kitchenette with a mini-fridge and microwave. The rooms, Milner said, were designed before the pandemic to allow immunocompromised patients to self-isolate if necessary.

Behind the building is a secluded courtyard which will soon include a fountain and children’s playground in addition to the existing basketball hoop and small court.

In the center of the building is a community room with a fireplace, television and large bookshelves divided by built-in banquettes. Opposite the guest suites, on the other side of the community hall, is a dining room and kitchen. Rather than building a commercial kitchen, there are essentially three home kitchens set up so that families can have their own space to prepare meals. The kitchen features modern finishes, with white cabinets, stone countertops, a gray tile backsplash, and stainless steel appliances.

Fair Haven offers more than just a place to stay. Volunteers and staff are there to support patients and their families.

Allen said when she was diagnosed with postpartum preeclampsia, Fair Haven’s director of guest services, Tricia Bishop, was at her bedside. It’s an example, Milner said, of the organization’s belief that “people are valuable” and should feel physically and emotionally cared for while there.

“Everyone who stays with us is here from out of town, so they don’t have the support system of their families, communities and friends around them as they go through what could be the hardest time of their lives,” Milner said. “So it’s really important to us that we don’t just provide accommodation, but if people want support and they want someone to go on that journey with them, we have staff and volunteers to do it.”

A place to rebuild mind, body and spirit

Nicole Miller-Dixon traveled a long and trying road to reach Fair Haven.

Miller-Dixon, 42, has been staying in one of the Fair Haven apartments since late July. She was diagnosed with stage 4 rectal cancer in 2020, and a host of chemotherapy and treatment issues led to a nasogastric tube, multiple surgeries and an ileostomy (a deviation of the small intestine outside of the body) whom she affectionately calls “Brenda”. ”

She came to Indianapolis after doctors in Fort Wayne told her there was not much more they could do for her. Unfortunately, her complications continued, she said, and after weeks of immunotherapy, her healthcare team discovered that the cancer had metastasized throughout her abdomen. The treatment plan, doctors told her, is to prolong her life, not cure her. The doctors “buy me more time,” she says, but she’s confident the doctors will find something that will keep her going for a long time.

“I may have cancer,” she said, “but cancer doesn’t have me.”

Nicole Miller-Dixon on Tuesday, September 22, 2021, inside Fair Haven at Ada's Place in Indianapolis.  The faith-based non-profit organization provides temporary housing for those traveling for medical treatment.

If it weren’t for Fair Haven, Miller-Dixon said she couldn’t afford housing in Indianapolis, couldn’t afford treatment. Without it, she said doctors gave her a prognosis of “maybe a year”. Fair Haven, she said, was the difference between life and death.

As a mother of four, Miller-Dixon said she felt the need to project her strength and persistence. She wants her children to understand that if they focus on something – even as daunting as surviving cancer – they can do it. It’s exhausting, she says, having to be so strong.

But in Fair Haven, she can take the time she needs to rest and repair her mind, body, and spirit.

“You have friends here in Fair Haven who, when you’re not strong enough, they’ll help you pick up those parts,” Miller-Dixon said, “and rebuild them for you.”

To learn more about Fair Haven’s mission, make a donation or volunteer, visit fairhavenfoundation.org.

Fair Haven Annual Fundraiser

What: Parisian flea market, a shopping event featuring a variety of items including home accessories, furniture, mirrors, chandeliers, tableware, estate jewelry and art.

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 8-9

Or: 14159 Clay Terrace Blvd., Carmel.

Tickets: $5, available at the door or on the organization’s website, fairhavenfoundation.org.

You can reach IndyStar reporter Holly Hays at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @hollyvhays.